"The goal is to become the unique, awesome, never to be repeated human being that we were called to be." -Patricia Deegan

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Forgotten Rest (Didn't See the Forest for the Trees)

I'm having my rest month. It was a bit late, though, so my body told me by way of my second toe.

Taken from the sole of foot, looking up. The bone should be black, not white, on the MRI

Ironically, just two weeks before this image was taken, I had given a talk for the North Star Trail Running Festival, where I noted that I hadn't sustained an injury that sidelined me in over 8 years. I credited this in large part to the fact that I always schedule rests into my program. I know damage is being done all the time when running and we can't outrun our body's ability to heal. Scott Jurek, a phenomenal ultrarunner, was one  athlete I looked to when I took this advice on board many years ago. He routinely scheduled month-long rests. This made sense to me. Rather than waiting for my body to break - and getting an unplanned rest - I would schedule them around my races, training, and personal life. Combined with a great plant-based diet, strength training, good sleep, and all those other helpful things, it worked great for 8 years.

Until I inadvertently erased my rest from my program.
Covid "erased all" but I should have kept my plan!

My program for March through June included the Sri Chinmoy 24hr race on 22 March, which was to be followed by a short rest and then building back to the Emu 6 day race in Hungary from 7-12 May. I had then programmed myself to have mid-May to mid-June off. It's my usual system of having periodic big rests after 6 or 8 months of training and racing. My next season race was to be the 100km World Championships in the Netherlands in late September. (Obviously cancelled.)

Covid hit Western Australia in mid-March and my March race was cancelled 3 days before the event. Instead of going to the race in Canberra, I drove a few hours south in WA and set a female FKT on the Cape to Cape Track over 19.5 hours. I gave myself a good rest the following week and then started building my mileage again. When the Hungary race was cancelled, I erased my program. Let me make that clear. I erased my program.

I ran. I created my #RunEveryStreet project and ran. I ran road and trails. I had no program. I simply recorded mileage after I completed it. Between 100-150km/week. I went to the gym for strength training and recorded that, as well.

In mid-June, I spontaneously decided to do a virtual vert race (All About the Vert) and tied it in with a Half Everest ("Base Camp"), becoming the first woman in Australia to do it. To get my 4424m of vert for the Half Everest, I had to do 72km (26 repeats) of a local hill! I approached it as a "Type 2 fun" adventure and kept myself at cruisy pace, so it took nearly 12 hours.
Coming into my 'aid station' about 8 hours into the Vert Race/Half Everest.

The next week, I was back running. Normally, that's not a big deal for me, because it was just "cruisy pace." I had DOMS in my quads, but no niggles.

But four days later, I thought I was getting arthritis in my second toe. The joint hurt, but warmed up after 10-20 minutes of running. Coincidentally, I had arthritis flaring up in the index finger in my right hand. A few years ago, I'd had a month or so of swollen thumbs, which I was told was arthritis.

I went scrambling the next weekend and had no toe pain at all.

The following week the toe was on and off with discomfort. I booked in with my podiatrist, in case my assessment was wrong. Tenosynovitis, perhaps? And then on Saturday - two weeks after the Half Everest - my toe symptoms changed. The toe was grumpy for nearly the full two hours of my run. It didn't "warm up" until the very end. The next day, when I changed to go to the gym, I noticed the top of my foot was a bit swollen. Oh dear! That stopped me in my tracks! I changed back out of my gym clothes and got a cancellation appointment with the podiatrist. I had an MRI within two days. Advanced stress reaction - the beginning of a stress fracture.

I racked my brain for the next few days as I sat with a carbon plate in my shoe. How? How did I miss it? Yes, it did seem that my symptoms were rather odd for a stressie ("warming up" rather than increasing pain during a run) and I was surely thrown off by having an arthritic flare up in my finger at the same time. But what else? I was definitely running a lot of road, but I had lots of new shoes (thanks to the 6 day race I didn't go to) and was varying them up. What else??

Then it struck me. I erased my program. I wiped out the month long rest I had scheduled.

Resting during a 2.5 hour "RunEveryStreet" #res run. Not long enough ;)

I had gotten so focused on running, day after day, I was just looking at each "tree," without stepping back to see that I was in a "forest" of trees. I lost sight of my big picture. I simply outran my body's ability to heal and I had dropped the system that had always protected me from doing that.

I admit, I shed a tear when I got the news, expecting it to be a terrible loss. But within two days, I was settled. Work and my volunteerism in Western Australian trails (boots-on-the-ground as well as advocacy) has been intense since Covid hit. I thought running was giving me my mental health time, but in reality, I was pretty exhausted trying to do it all.

It turns out, I've been having a fantastic month. I am getting into wilderness for many hours several times each week, pounding metal posts in on a 30km trail I'm reviving.

I can see the forest AND the trees now.

The 30 year old marker in a tree (trees grow!) and a new post just put in.

No comments:

Post a Comment